Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 38 - Schools mental health strategies [1814/17].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 38 - Schools mental health strategies [1814/17]. (18 Jan 2017)

External website: http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20a...

38. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on linking community and youth services in with schools in the local area in relation to awareness programmes dealing with the dangers of addiction to drugs, alcohol and gambling. [1814/17]

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan:  My question relates to the programmes being run by community organisations and the youth service to raise awareness of addiction to drugs, alcohol and gambling. Is there a role for linking those programmes to schools in local areas?

Deputy Richard Bruton: The well-being in post-primary schools guidelines for mental health promotion and suicide prevention 2013, and the well-being in primary schools guidelines for mental health promotion 2015, acknowledge that schools have a role to play in supporting their students to develop the key skills and knowledge to enable them to make informed choices when faced with a range of difficult issues, including drugs, alcohol and gambling. This is mainly done through the social personal and health education, SPHE, programme, which has a specific module on the use and misuse of a range of substances. SPHE is currently mandatory in all primary schools and in junior cycle. It will also form part of the new mandatory well-being area of learning for the new junior cycle. Schools are also encouraged to deliver the SPHE programme in senior cycle.

Relevant topics in SPHE include student decision-making skills and safety and protection. Students learn how to exercise judgment, weigh up different possibilities, examine the steps and choices that guide them towards considered decision-making, begin to understand their own rights and the rights of others, and explore decision-making. In respect of safety, students’ ability to assess the consequences of risky behaviour is developed.

Current best practice guidelines for the delivery of SPHE indicate that the classroom teacher is the best placed professional to work sensitively and consistently with students and that individual themes such as substance misuse prevention should not be treated in isolation but should be integrated with the other SPHE modules. However, I recognise the value of strong links with the local community in the context of a whole-school approach to SPHE.

I have recently established a cross-divisional working group on well-being within my Department and linkages with local community and youth services will be considered as part of the work of the group.

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